News and Commentary

British PM Boris Johnson: Coronavirus ‘The Worst Public Health Crisis For A Generation’
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, speaks during a coronavirus news conference inside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K., on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Johnson said the true scale of the outbreak may be "much higher" than the 590 patients who have tested positive for the virus in the U.K. so far.
Photographer: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the coronavirus scare heats up, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the pandemic could be the “worst public health crisis for a generation,” warning that citizens could lose loved ones as a result.

“This is the worst public crisis for a generation, some people compare it to seasonal flu, alas that is not right,” Johnson told reporters at an emergency COBRA meeting of top Cabinet officials. “Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous, and it’s going to spread further.”

“I must level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” he added.

The prime minister said that Britain would be moving out of the containment phase and seek to delay its spread for as long as possible.

“If we delay the peak even by a few weeks, then our NHS will be in a stronger state as the weather improves and fewer people suffer from normal respiratory diseases, more beds are available, and we’ll have more time for medical research,” he said. “We can also act to stretch the peak of the disease over a longer period so that our society is better able to cope.”

He advised people who show any symptoms, such as a fever or cough, to stay home for over a week along with their family members.

“From tomorrow, if you have coronavirus symptoms, however mild – either a new continuous cough or a high temperature – then you should stay at home for at least 7 days to protect others and help slow the spread of the disease,” he elaborated. “We advise all those over 70 and those with serious medical conditions against going on cruises and we advise against international school trips.”

“At some point in the next few weeks, we are likely to go further, and if someone in a household has those symptoms, then we will be asking everyone in that household will stay at home,” he added.

As noted by Fox News, Boris Johnson said that Britain would not be instituting the same measures as other European countries, such as shutting down schools and banning public gatherings. On the issue of sporting events, the prime minister only said that his administration has taken it under consideration.

“We are considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures,” he said. “And the scientific advice, as we’ve said over the last couple of weeks, is that banning such events will have little effect on the spread, but there’s also the issue of the burden that such events can place on public services.”

Prior to Boris Johnson’s address, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that schools, universities, and other public events will be closed. “We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and this is uncharted territory for us,” he said.

On Wednesday night, President Trump addressed the nation and outlined specific actions his administration has taken, and will take, to minimize the fallout with the virus, most especially, the economic fallout.